ARNEGARD, N.D. - More than 150 people showed up for the grand opening of the Arnegard Fire District's new facility, and 3 quarters of the $1.5 million it took to construct the building was paid for in oil company and private donations.
Fire Chief Rick Schreiber said these are two examples of the support the community gives the District because of the need for expanded emergency response in the area.
The Arnegard fire district covers more than 200 square miles, and calls have increased by 1,200 percent in the past five years. Schreiber acknowledged that the increasing traffic and occupants in their area meant it was time to catch up with the population they serve.
Five weeks ago, firefighters moved into the station they had been planning to build for two years. In the old station, they double-parked trucks and had to store one unit outside. The new building allows them to have room to grow the number of units and services they provide, ultimately helping them keep their quick response time.
“Time is of the essence, we need to get to the scene as quickly as we can, and having this facility allows us to do that,” explained Schrieber.
They now offer vehicle extraction and emergency medical services. The area has changed so much, they even carry NARCAN, the medication used to reverse opioid overdoses, along with bulletproof vests.
Schreiber held up one of the vests. “Who would've ever though here in Arnegard, North Dakota, that we would need to carry something like this, but in the changing times in the country with barricaded individuals and people getting shot, we decided that something like this was definitely a necessity."
Fall of 2018, there was a field fire at Phil Moen's family's 110-year-old farmstead near Arnegard. Fortunately, it only destroyed three acres.
Phil Moen said if firefighters hadn't responded so quickly to the area, they could've lost hundreds of acres, different farm structures, and even their homes. He added, now having a fire department that can grow to meet the demands gives him peace of mind.
Moen explained, "There's four families living out here. Thanks to the oil industry, our son was able to move back with his family, and they got married, and we have four homes scattered around out here. It's a real comfort to know that a mile-and-a-half down the road, we have the rural fire department."
So if another fire breaks out at his farm, or any of the other 50 farms nearby, the Fire District is more prepared, and can be just as swift in their response time.
“It makes living out here that much easier. It’s just one more worry that has been taken away,” mentioned Moen.
Highway 85 has a lot more oilfield traffic; the Emergency Medical Services team they’ve had a lot of calls to accidents as well. Long-time members of the Arnegard community say the boom of the Bakken has changed the area but it’s been a blessing.
"Forty years ago, this area was actually in decline, the population was actually declining, aging. So, I think it's been overall good for the communities,” said Lynn Hovde, Secretary Treasurer for the Arnegard Fire.
If it wasn't for the increasing population of younger people coming to the community and volunteering, they wouldn't be able to offer the emergency services that they do.
The Arnegard Fire District currently has 15 volunteers on their roster, and they are always looking for more people willing to serve. Anyone 18 or older can join even if you don’t have experience; the District provides education and training.